After drinking our last evening cup of ranon’apango (Malagasy rice tea) at Ankarafantsika National Park, we bid a bittersweet goodbye to the members of Ezaka. Fittingly translated into “bravery” in Malagasy, this local women’s association does more than just take care of eager biologists during their fieldwork. Filling the blessedly cool night with song, the women relayed their appreciation for the forest.

Though the park is protected, it does not exist in isolation from the local people of Antranofasaka. Rice fields, crucial for the health and livelihoods of the local people, extend into margins of the park and zebu, Malagasy cattle with great horns and large humps on their backs, are frequently escorted through the park on well-trod trails.

During the performance, one song and dance stood out – one celebrating the local fossa in its lyrics. Fossa are among the most fascinating denizens of Ankarafantsika, catlike carnivores closely related to the mongoose and found only on Madagascar.

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Originally published Aug. 12, 2019.